Being humanly divine

London-based photographer Keerthana Dinesh Kunnath’s frames empower the vulnerable to embrace their divine selves

author_img Mahima Anna Jacob Published :  29th October 2021 10:15 AM   |   Published :   |  29th October 2021 10:15 AM

London-based photographer Keerthana Dinesh Kunnath’s frames empower the vulnerable to embrace their divine selves

For Keerthana Dinesh Kunnath, fashion photography is a way to express herself. With her conscious decision to switch from jewellery designing to photography as a full-time career, the NIFT graduate wanted to express herself, debate social issues and put out thought-provoking political statements. She is currently pursuing fashion photography at the London College of Fashion and crafts her frames to address stigma, conditioning, and embracing empowerment. 

Her series ‘Kaleidoscopic Self’ represent the mythologies about Gods that become Humans and vice-versa. The Calicut-native takes a long and hard look at the culture of her birthplace and extracts Northern Malabar’s deep hues for her photographs — from Theyyam and Thira to other temple folk art forms.

“The series is inspired by things I have seen during temple festivals as a kid and stories shared by my grandmother. Theyyam and Thira are performed by the so-called lower caste people. I have always felt that their act of transformation into gods and goddesses is a way of breaking free from the oppression they have faced throughout their lives. While they don the divine skin, those belonging to the so-called higher caste honours them and pray to them,” says Keerthana.

Keerthana also addresses the toxic fabric of society, including matters like gender inequality, conditioning, and violence against women. “India is a place which glorifies women as Devis and goddesses and defiles them simultaneously. My photographs are mostly on the aggressive side and radiate liberation. That “I have been oppressed all this while and now, I am taking the courage to be the goddess I am meant to be feeling,” she says. 

Keerthana has centred the series on minority - women and LGBTQ+. “They are the biggest preys of oppression and patriarchy,’ she adds.  “Everyone has divine bits within them. I have featured a transgender model to highlight their power on par with the rest of the world. They are treated badly, and this is an expression of their strength,” says Keerthana. She handled the art direction and conceived the shoot.

‘Naagakaali Theyyam’ is represented in 25-year-old Keerthana’s frames by a model holding an egg in his mouth. In silver and gold embellished with garlands, crowns and Kancheepuram silk, the models in her frames have been raised above their human selves.

‘Kaleidoscopic Self’ is Keerthana’s first deep look into her own culture. “The series made me want to talk about gender and sexuality within my cultural framework, and also to work more around South Asian societies,” she concludes.